The Family Supportive Housing Program
In June 2014, the Haven launched the Family Supportive Housing (FSH) Program funded by the State of Vermont. The goal of the two-year program is to support families who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, to achieve and/or maintain stable housing.
FSH targets support at the most vulnerable population of families—those who have children under the age of six, receive state benefits through the Reach Up program, are working with the Family Services Division (Vermont’s child protection agency) of the Department for Children and Families, or have a child with special needs.
Family Supportive Housing is a national program, recognized for its high levels of effectiveness. Overall in Vermont, an evaluation of active FSH participants found that 86% of families were stably housed 12 months after achieving housing. Nationwide, Supportive Housing models demonstrate effectiveness in supporting families in obtaining and maintaining permanent housing.
Service Coordinator Margeaux Duclos, pictured here, provides direct support to families in the FSH program at the Haven. She meets weekly with each of the 12-15 participating families in their home. They work on the goals that the family identifies and address them weekly.
An integral part of Margeaux’s role is budgeting and financial education. Families are encouraged to open a savings account and save whatever amount they are able. Recently, the Haven began a savings match program to incentivize small savings goals. Participants are putting money away for goals they identify such as purchasing a vehicle, creating a nest egg for emergencies, or saving to pay off bills.
“One of the most meaningful aspects of this job,” Margeaux said, “is being able to see the impact that permanent and stable housing has on the families I work with. When families settle in to their new housing, there is a shift and change that occurs. Families begin to feel empowered and growth starts happening. They are able to shift from a state of crisis to becoming more settled, and this opens up many doors for them.”
Three families graduated recently after a successful two years in the program. Their graduation was based on their successful completion of their goals, remaining stably housed for two years and if necessary, having appropriate other supports in place to address longer term service needs.
Because we built up the number of families in the program over a period of time, many we are currently working with will graduate in 2017.
One participant who completed the program said, “I can be independent. I was absolutely petrified that I would not make it. That I would fail. I don’t want to live in my car again. I don’t want to go back there. I fought really hard that we would all be together.”
Many local organizations and schools collaborate with us in this effort. Given its success, the Haven expects to expand the program in the future.